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Title: Controls on terrestrial carbon feedbacks by productivity vs. turnover in the CMIP5 Earth System Models

To better understand sources of uncertainty in projections of terrestrial carbon cycle feedbacks, we present an approach to separate the controls on modeled carbon changes. We separate carbon changes into 4 categories using a linearized, equilibrium approach: those arising from changed inputs (productivity-driven changes), and outputs (turnover-driven changes), and apply the analysis separately to the live and dead carbon pools. Using Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) simulations for 5 models, we find that changes to the live pools are primarily explained by productivity-driven changes, with only one model showing large compensating changes to live carbon turnover times. For dead carbon pools, the situation is more complex as all models predict a large reduction in turnover times in response to increases in productivity. This responses arises from the common representation of a broad spectrum of decomposition turnover times via a multi-pool approach, in which flux-weighted turnover times are faster than mass-weighted turnover times. This leads to a shift in the distribution of carbon among dead pools in response to changes in inputs, and therefore a transient but long-lived reduction in turnover times in response to increases in productivity. Since this behavior, a reduction in inferred turnover times resulting frommore » an increase in inputs, is superficially similar to priming processes, but occurring without the mechanisms responsible for priming, we call the phenomenon "false priming", and show that it masks much of the intrinsic changes to dead carbon turnover times as a result of changing climate. These patterns hold across the fully-coupled, biogeochemically-coupled, and radiatively-coupled 1% yr−1 increasing CO2 experiments. We disaggregate inter-model uncertainty in the globally-integrated equilibrium carbon responses to initial turnover times, inital productivity, fractional changes in turnover, and fractional changes in productivity. For both the live and dead carbon pools, inter-model spread in carbon changes arising from initial conditions is dominated by model disagreement on turnover times, whereas inter-model spread in carbon changes from fractional changes to these terms is dominated by model disagreement on changes to productivity in response to both warming and CO2 fertilization. However, the lack of changing turnover time control on carbon responses, for both live and dead carbon pools, in response to the imposed forcings may indicate a common lack of process representation behind changing turnover times (e.g., allocation and mortality for live carbon; permafrost, microbial dynamics, and mineral stabilization for dead carbon), rather than a true estimate of the uncertainty in these processes.« less
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Biogeosciences Discussions (Online)
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Journal Name: Biogeosciences Discussions (Online); Journal Volume: 12; Journal Issue: 8; Journal ID: ISSN 1810-6285
European Geosciences Union
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
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